Monday, 18 January 2016

World waits for Lockerbie verdict

[This is the headline over a report published on the BBC News website on this date in 2001. It reads as follows:]

The Lockerbie trial has been adjourned until Tuesday 30 January while the judges consider their verdict after hearing 84 days of evidence.

They will not deliver a verdict on that date but will indicate when their decision might be announced.

At the end of closing arguments on Friday 19 January, the presiding judge, Lord Sutherland, told the court: "It is quite apparent that there is a great deal of material to consider which will take a lot of time.

"In the normal course of events a jury would have to sit every day and readjourn.

"It appears to us that this would be a waste of everyone's time and so we shall adjourn until a week on Tuesday.

"We will not deliver a verdict that day.

"If we are in a position, and I have to say it is unlikely, if we are by any chance in a position to be ready to deliver a verdict what we will do is indicate that it will be delivered on the Wednesday.

"What's more likely is I think that, when we come back a week on Tuesday, we might be in a position to indicate a date on which the verdict will be delivered or a further progress report."

The trial itself lasted eight months but was persistently held up by procedural problems.

Defence counsel for the two Libyans accused of the bombing in which 270 died completed their closing arguments on Thursday and called on the judges to deliver not guilty verdicts.

They urged the three judges - Lord Sutherland, Lord Coulsfield and Lord Maclean - to find their clients not guilty of the murder of 270 people in December 1988.

The trial is taking place at Camp Zeist in the Netherlands and is thought to have cost about £50m.

On the last day of evidence they heard Richard Keen, QC, representing Al Amin Khalifa Fhimah, systematically atttempt to dismiss the Crown's claims by challenging the quality of the testimony.

He said: "We have inference upon inference upon inference, leading to an inference."

Mr Keen said the fact that Mr Fhimah had been, prior to the bombing, station chief for Libyan Arab Airlines in Malta did not mean he had the know-how to slip an unaccompanied suitcase bomb onto an outgoing flight.

"Even if Al-Amin Fhimah had possessed the expertise that the Crown attributes to him," Mr Keen said, "the evidence does not suggest that Libyan intelligence services would have looked to him for the furtherance of their alleged plot."

Mr Keen suggested Fhimah could have been duped into supplying baggage tags, and that an entry in his diary about "getting tags - OK" proved nothing.

He added that Libya's JSO intelligence agency had its own agent at the airport, Abdul Majid Giaka, who later defected to the United States and, in September, testified as the prosecution's star witness.

Like William Taylor, QC, who is representing Abdelbaset Ali Mohmed Al Megrahi, Mr Keen challenged Mr Giaka's evidence in an attempt to convince the bench that the case against the accused is not watertight.

On several points, Mr Keen said, Giaka was "unreliable, and at some times simply incredible".

He urged the judges to look back at his testimony with "conspicuous care".

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